“Glad we’re riding by ourselves,” Kaitlyn said, glancing at Seth from the driver’s seat.
“I like this better than the trip to the motor homes,” Seth said.
“Because I can look at you more,” he said.
“We’re getting close to the road already.”
“What is it again?”
“Route 78,” Seth said. “Not sure if you guys went that way or not.”
“I think we did. It goes through Scissors Crossing, right?”
“Yep,” Seth said. “Hope we don’t get followed.
“Me too. I just want a little time to relax. Maybe a little us time.”
“We’ve got another battle coming,” Seth said, “but maybe we’ll get a little break after that. At least we’re having time like this.”
“True. It does help us to get to know each other a little bit.”
“Has so far,” Seth said. “We’ve been together for quite a few hours now.”
“Not counting sleep time,” Kaitlyn said, shooting him a smirk.
“Yeah, I was dead to the world during that.”
“I was awake for a while,” Kaitlyn said. “I watched you sleep.”
“Really,” she said. “You can tell a lot about a person when you watch them sleep.”
“How? I just laid there with my eyes closed. Hopefully I didn’t snore and drool too much.”
She giggled. “Nothing out of the ordinary.”
“So what do you mean?”
“You were calm, and hardly moved at all, except to snuggle against me tighter. Not much restless time. That’s saying something, given the crapolla we’re going through right now.”
Seth chuckled. “I’ve always been a heavy sleeper, but I’m not always calm. I can get worked up.”
“Did you watch me?”
“Only right at the end, when people started moving around. I’ll never forget how your naked hip and back looked.”
“You didn’t seem to mind my front much, either.”
“Oh, God,” Seth said. “You’re perfect. Exactly my type, from a looks perspective, anyway.”
“I’m too thick.”
Seth chuckled. “You women think we just like skinny girls. I don’t.”
“Are you saying I’m fat?”
Seth laughed. “I’m not answering that one. It’s a no-win question.”
“C’mon, I’m not letting you off that easy.”
“You’re putting me on the spot,” Seth said, “and enjoying it way too much.”
“Oh, please. You aren’t fat. You’re curvy, and you have nice hips and a nice chest. If I saw you in a bar I’d be interested in an instant.”
“In a bar?” she asked.
“See what I mean?” Seth snickered. “You know what I meant.”
“No, please enlighten me,” she said, shooting him a wicked glare.
He sighed. “If I was in a place where you normally look for girls and I saw you there, I would’ve gone after you. Maybe I should have said the supermarket instead of a bar. Or a college class. Or a coffee house.”
She laughed. “This is fun.”
“For you, maybe.”
“Oh, you don’t like talking to me?”
“Is this what the tribe men were talking about?”
“Now that’s not fair,” Kaitlyn said, glancing at him with a smirk on her face.
“You’re teasing me, aren’t you?”
“Kinda, but that’s not the main thing,” she said. “I’m trying to break past the point where you go out of your way to be nice to me.”
“Oh, that’s what you’re doing, huh?” Seth asked. “Maybe I should do the same thing.”
“Maybe you should,” she said, “but you won’t.”
“You have a romantic thing built up around me,” Kaitlyn said. “You’re in full-on pursuit mode.”
He stared at her in the dark Jeep. She glanced at him too long, hitting a bump in the road too hard.
“Better watch it,” he said.
“Sorry. You agree, though, don’t you?”
He took a deep breath. “Okay, I’m infatuated with you. I’ll admit it. It’s not the same as love, but it’s strong, and I want to pursue it. So yeah, I guess I am in pursuit mode. Deal with it.”
“I got to you a little,” she said. “You’ve got a pretty high threshold. That’s good. We might just work.”
He laughed. “Okay, Doctor…hey, what is your last name, anyway?”
“Roybal,” she said. “I like that. Doctor Roybal at your service.”
“At my service, huh,” Seth said. “Now there’s something that I’m interested in.”
“Don’t be naughty,” she said, shooting him a prim and proper expression. They both laughed.
“Look, there’s the road up ahead. I see people turning onto it. Right turn.”
“Thank God,” Kaitlyn said. “You’re still staring at me.”
“Does it bother you?”
“It does when I can’t pull over,” she said, making the turn onto highway 78. She sped up to about sixty, following the long caravan, as others got onto the road behind her.
“And what would you do if you could pull over?”
“You’re trying to take this conversation in a naughty direction again,” she said.
“No, it was just a question,” he said. “Do you want kids?”
“Didn’t we already talk about this?”
“I didn’t know you as well then,” he said. “That was hours ago.”
She snickered. “Oh, please. You trying to turn the tables on me so quickly?”
“I wouldn’t do anything like that. Trust me.”
“I’ve heard that before.”
“Answer the question,” Seth said.
She grinned at him. “Two can play that game.”
“Well, then we need to clarify. Are you talking about kids in general, or your kids?”
Seth laughed. “You’re tricky. Let’s start with kids in general.”
“I can take them or leave them. Did a lot of babysitting when I was younger. It was okay, I guess.”
“That doesn’t sound very promising.”
“I only answered the first question.”
“True, you did,” Seth said. “Well?”
She was silent for a long moment.
“Not a good sign if it takes that long to come up with an answer,” Seth said, staring at her again. She glanced at him nervously, then looked back at the road.
“Don’t rush me,” she said.
“If it’s taking that long, there must be nothing there.”
She glanced at him again, eyes glassy. “You don’t know that.”
“Shoot, I’m sorry,” Seth said. “I was just messing with you.”
“I was trying to find the words to answer it,” she said. “Without tipping my hand too much. It’s not easy.”
“You aren’t upset?”
She chuckled. “Hardly. More just scared.”
“Myself,” she said.
He stared at her again. She glanced away from the road for a moment, eyes still teary, but with a smile on her face.
“You okay?” he asked.
“I’ll probably regret this.” She took a deep breath. “The thought of carrying your child excites me. A lot. I don’t think I should think about it right now. It’s too early to be having the feelings it’s giving me.”
“Oh,” Seth said.
“You aren’t gonna leave me because of that, are you?”
Seth laughed. “Are you serious?”
“Good, so it doesn’t bother you?”
“That’s not it,” Seth said.
“I’m having the same kind of feelings. If we feel that way together, something’s liable to happen.”
Jules and Ted finished showing everybody how to reload the guns in the coach, and work all the systems. It was a long process, and now it was dark outside. Smell of cooking lasagna filled the giant warehouse. People were slowly making their way to the kitchen area.
“What’s this warehouse used for, normally?” Robbie asked, walking with Morgan, Ted, and Sparky.
“Jules told me they built the vehicles here,” Ted said. “Before that, I don’t know. Probably something illegal.”
Morgan chuckled. “This is a whole hidden world, isn’t it?”
“I wouldn’t get too comfortable with it,” Sparky said softly. “It’s good that we’re coming together now, but these folks don’t mess around. You don’t want to stick around after the war is over.”
“Why did you?” Morgan asked.
“Hell, I’ve been in that world for years,” Sparky said. “Too late for me. I’m hoping to go back to running the card club eventually. I liked that. It was fun.”
“That wasn’t a criminal enterprise, was it?” Robbie asked.
“Uh oh,” Robbie said. Morgan shot him a glance.
“So, what was that place really?” Morgan said.
“Oh, it was a legit card club, and we treated our customers like gold,” Sparky said, “and our employees, as I’m sure you remember.”
“Yes, I loved working there,” Morgan said. “There was something else, though?”
“Lots of money moved through there,” Sparky said. “Cash money.”
“Money laundering,” Robbie said quietly.
“You got it, kid,” Sparky said. “For the other parts of the business.”
“What are those?” Robbie said.
“If I were you I’d avoid asking questions like that,” Ted said. “Don’t drag yourself into this too deep. Really.”
“You aren’t part of this organization, are you?” Robbie asked.
“No, never have been,” Ted said. “I know these guys from the community.”
“Community?” Morgan asked.
“Special forces, mercenaries, CIA, that sort of thing,” Ted said. “I don’t have any interest in Ivan’s business ventures.”
“And yet you’re here,” Sparky said, grinning.
“You tricked me,” Ted said. Then he sighed. “Okay, I would have joined anyway. No way was I gonna let this martial law garbage go on in my home.”
“Thought so,” Sparky said. “I figured Ji-Ho had already been bending your ear.”
“He had,” Ted said. “I hope he’s careful. He gets a little reckless.”
“Oh, you mean like Jules?” Robbie asked. They got in line for the food. Jules was on the other side of the table dishing out lasagna.
“Hey, you make fun?” Jules asked, smiling at Robbie. “What talk about?”
“He was talking about your ghost ride of the car off the roof,” Ted said. “That was pretty crazy.”
“It work,” Jules said. “Did it not?”
“Hell yeah it worked,” Robbie said, holding out a plate. “That took a lot of guts.”
Jules laughed as he plopped some lasagna onto his plate. “It fun. I’d do again.”
“You got somebody watching this place?” Ted asked. “I can’t believe nobody followed all those Volvos.”
“I have two friends on roof of front building,” Jules said. “You know.”
“Who?” Ted asked.
“Mister One and Mister Two,” Jules said.
Sparky laughed. “Oh yeah, those guys. Where’d you dig them up?”
“Romania,” Jules said. “Ivan know. Go way back. Me too.”
“How’d they get out of that booth in the theater?” Robbie said. “That place had to be crawling with UN thugs after they were done.”
“Trade secret,” Jules said, laughing as he continued to spoon out lasagna.
“I actually feel better that they’re out there,” Ted said.
“What if somebody comes?” Morgan asked.
“We shoot our way out,” Jules said. “Be fun. Trust me.”
“I’ve seen that look in your eye before,” Ted said. “You know something we don’t?”
“No, just wishful thinking,” Jules said. “We know where enemy base is in Valencia. If they come, first we wipe out here. Then we go clean up rest.”
“Hell, you’re hoping that will happen,” Ted said, shaking his head.
“You don’t want to splatter UN thugs?” Jules asked.
“I’d rather just get out of here,” Ted said. “Get this job over with, and go back to our lives.”
“You get wish eventually,” Jules said. “Trust me.”
Everybody had their food, and were sitting around the warehouse in small groups, chatting and eating. The night was wearing on, everybody getting a little tired.
“All, have enough food?” Jules asked.
“Yeah, it was great,” Robbie said.
“Yep,” Stacey said.
“Okay, gather round. Plan who rides with who, also who stays with group, who leaves.”
“Slow down a little, boss,” Sparky said. “How many of you have made up your minds? No pressure, but we should discuss it.”
“Let’s just go one by one,” Tex said. “Or this will go on too long. I’m beat. We need to sleep. Most of us only got a few hours last night.”
“Yeah, he right,” Jules said. “Let’s call tentative. Can change mind before we hit central coast. Okay? Nice to have idea.”
“Okay, I’ll go first,” said a brunette with a hauntingly beautiful face and a thin build. “Alexis. I need to leave. I don’t want to leave, but I’m worried about my sister. She’s severely autistic, and our parents are getting too old to take care of her. They adopted us later in life. I’m sorry; you guys are doing the right thing.”
“We understand,” Sparky said. “No problem at all. Thank you.”
“Thank you for saving me,” she said. “I’ll never forget that.”
“Welcome,” Jules said.
“I’m staying,” Dana said. She glanced at Sparky, and he shot a smile back at her.
“Thanks, Dana,” Sparky said.
“I don’t like men,” said a tall, dark haired beauty with a strong build and a defensive demeanor. “Brooke. I know what Ivan does. He runs hookers, among other things. I want to fight the enemy. If his organization gets the idea that I want to be involved in anything else, you won’t like my reaction.”
Jules chuckled. “You’re a fighter. I like. This have nothing to do with Ivan’s business. You fight with us, then we part company. This good, no?”
“I don’t want any of you men coming on to me,” Brooke said. “I’ve seen the cute little looks between some of you. Not having it. Everybody get me?”
“We get it,” Sparky said. “Welcome aboard.”
“One other thing,” Brooke said. “I want to be with Audrey. Anybody have a problem with that?”
“What does Audrey think?” Sparky asked.
She stood up, a small waif with ginger hair and freckles. “I don’t like violence, but I want to be involved. I have medical training.”
“How much medical training?” Ted asked.
“I was a year into my residency when the world went nuts,” she said. “I’m not licensed yet, but I know a lot. I can patch you guys up in a pinch.”
“You okay bunking with Brooke?” Sparky asked.
Audrey sighed. “Are you gonna look down on us?”
“It’s your business, and your business only,” Sparky said.
“Any of you men mess with Audrey and I’ll gut you like a fish,” Brooke said.
Jules laughed. “See, I like. You gut enemy, we get along fine. Welcome.”
Brooke gave him a long stare, a smile creeping across her face. She nodded, then sat down next to Audrey.
“I have to leave,” said a mousy blonde with a delicate face. “Lily. I just can’t take this. I’m bi-polar, and I have panic attacks. I barely survived captivity. Sorry.”
“You have somebody who can pick you up?” Ted asked.
“My brother,” she said. “He lives in Modesto. I can go live with him.”
“Okay, no problem,” Jules said.
“Thanks for saving us,” Lily said. “If there are other things I could do to help, I would.”
“Understand,” Sparky said softly.
“I know I said I wouldn’t join,” Shelly said. “I changed my mind. Is that okay?”
Jules smiled at her. “That very okay. Glad.”
“I’ll stay. Ashley.” She had a dancer’s body and grace, with a quiet demeanor. She glanced at Jordan. “Can I stay with him? We have a lot in common. We’re becoming friends.”
“I’d like that,” Jordan said.
“What have in common?” Jules asked.
“Theater,” Jordan said. “We’ve both got the bug.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s why you were at the Armstrong,” Robbie said.
“Can I stay, even though I didn’t want to at first? I’m Brianna.” She was a young-looking girl with an innocent face and curly light brown hair.
“You sure you’re up for this?” Sparky asked, eyeing her.
“I think so,” she said.
“You better more than think so, little lady,” Tex said. “This is gonna be dangerous. There’s no shame in leaving.”
“I’ll help her,” Stacey said.
Ted chuckled. “Who’s gonna help you?”
“I do all right,” he said indignantly. “I saved you in the restaurant, remember?”
“Don’t get mad,” Ted said. “I’m just messing with you. You’ll be fine.”
Stacey shot Brianna a nervous glance. He turned red, but smiled at her.
Jules chuckled. ‘Who left?”
“Haley,” said an ice blond with a curvy figure and a lot of self-confidence. “Changed my mind. I’m sticking around. Let’s go take out some creeps.”
“What changed your mind?” Ted asked.
“Jules,” she said. “He convinced me that the strong need to rise up and defend ourselves. Hell, I’ve got nothing to lose anyway. No family. No man. You folks are the only friends I’ve got. I’m in.”
“That good,” Jules said. “Thanks.”
“Thank you for saving us and killing all those thugs,” she said.
“Allison,” said a redhead of medium build. She had a country look to her, innocent but with a touch of mischief. “I changed my mind too. Tex convinced me on the way here.”
“Why didn’t you want to join before?” Sparky asked. “What could this crazy Texan have told you to change your mind?”
She chuckled. “He told me to take my power back,” Allison said. “I was afraid. Now I’m pissed. I’m gonna get me some.”
“That good,” Jules said. “That’s all, no?”
“That’s all,” Sparky said. “How about vehicles?” Who stays in what? How many in each?”
“There’s twenty-four of us,” Ted said. “Evenly that’s three per RV. Not saying we should do it that way, though.”
“I suggest some with four, some with two,” Jules said. “Each have different color stripes. You notice?”
“I did,” Cody said. “Figured there was something to that.”
“Number one is black. I take. Who want to join? Like four.”
“Can I come with you?” Shelly asked.
“I like,” Jules said.
“Me,” Sparky said.
“Can I go with you?” Dana asked.
“No problem,” Sparky said.
“Okay, number two is red,” Jules said. “Who want?”
“I’ll take it, with Morgan and whoever else,” Robbie said.
“Done,” Jules said. “Three is yellow.”
“I’ll take that one, partner,” Tex said. “Why don’t I take Alexis and Lily? I’ll watch out for them.”
“You’ll try to convince them,” Ted said.
“No, I won’t, really,” Tex said. “They both had good reasons not to join. I’ll protect them until we get to the central coast.”
“I good with that,” Jules said. “Four is green.”
“I’ll take that one,” Ted said. “Who wants to go with me?”
“Can I go with you, boss?” Stacey asked.
“Of course, and stop calling me boss. I’m Ted.”
“Okay, Ted,” Stacey said. “Brianna, you want to come with me?”
She nodded yes silently.
“I’ll go in that one,” Haley said. “If you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind,” Ted said. “Love to have you.”
“I decide,” Haley said. “About anything above riding with you, that is.”
“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” Ted said. “Really.”
“Good,” Haley said. She cracked a smile. “I can be kind of a bitch. Fair warning.”
“Noted,” Ted said. He felt his face flush. Stacey grinned at him, then looked at Brianna, who was too nervous to make eye contact with him.
“Five is blue,” Jules said.
“I’ll take that one,” Gil said. He glanced over at Karen, but before she could answer, Tisha jumped in.
“I want to go in that one,” she said, staring at Gil with an intensity that made him shiver.
Karen started to say something, but then stopped herself.
“Well?” Sparky asked, smirk on his face.
Gill nodded yes.
“Fine,” Karen said. “Can I go in yellow, with Tex?”
“Of course, little lady,” Tex said.
“Good,” Karen said, face red. She shot Gil a smug look, but he was focused on Tisha.
“Knew it,” Robbie whispered to Morgan. She cracked a smile, but tried to hide it.
Jules chuckled. Sparky looked at him and laughed. “Interesting dynamic.”
“Go on,” Karen said.
“Okay,” Jules said. “Six is purple.”
“I’ll take it,” Jordan said. “With Ashely, okay?”
Ashely smiled and nodded yes.
“Can we join?” Brooke asked. “Audrey and me?”
“You won’t gut me in my sleep, will you?” Jordan asked.
“If you concentrate on the dancer instead of Audrey, we’ll get along just fine.”
Jordan laughed. “Great, glad to be with you. Like show tunes?”
“I could get used to them, I guess,” Brooke said.
“Okay, two more, then we hit sack,” Jules said. “Number 7 is maroon.”
“I’ll take it,” Cody said. “Allison, want to ride with me?”
“Just us?” Allison asked, looking nervous.
“Gonna turn out that way,” he said. “No pressure.”
“No, it’s okay, I’ll go with you,” she said.
“Great,” Jules said. “One more. Number eight. Gray.”
“Looks like it’s us,” Justin said. “Katie and me.”
“Good,” Katie said, pulling him closer.
“Okay, all settled. Let’s get set up.”
The group stood, making their ways to the vehicles.
“How about that Tisha?” Morgan whispered to Robbie.
“Seriously,” Robbie said. “She’s gonna have her way with Gil big time.”
“You think he’s okay with that?”
“I think he wants it,” Robbie said.
Jules and Sparky watched as people were climbing into the RVs.
“What you think?” Jules asked.
“I think there’s gonna be fewer of us,” Sparky said, grim look on his face. “And it’s gonna start happening earlier than any of us think.”
“We do better than you think; wait and see,” Jules said.
“Hope so. A little sweet on Shelly, I see,” Sparky said.
“She not convinced yet,” Jules said. “I work, though. She my type.”
Sparky snickered. “Yeah, I’ll bet you will. She did decide to go with you.”
“Dana convinced. All over you.”
Sparky sighed. “Yeah, I know. Not sure if I like it yet or not.”
To be continued…
Bug Out! Texas has just been published in the Kindle Store! This is the story of Texas Patriots and their struggle against enemies, foreign and domestic, during the Bug Out! War. Chock full of action, adventure, suspense, and romance. Pick up your copy of Bug Out! Texas Book 1 today!
The first of my full length novels has been published in the Amazon Kindle store, available now. For those of you have have been readying the Bugout! series, the story involves George and Malcolm, and is set about seven years earlier. This book R rated, instead of the PG-13 of the Bugout! Series, so be warned. Here’s the link to “Never A Loose End”
Copyright Robert Boren 2016